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Decoding Google’s AI Ambitions (and Anxiety)

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Infographic breaking down Sundar Pichai's recent Google AI letter

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Decoding Google’s AI Ambitions (and Anxiety)

Anyone who’s experimented with ChatGPT can get a sense of the potential of generative AI—even in the technology’s earliest stages.

The hype around AI was rising throughout 2022, and has reached a fever pitch today.

ai search interest chart

We’ve seen hype cycles swell around specific technologies before. Blockchain, Metaverse, NFTs, the list goes on. It remains to be seen what tangible value is created after the heat dies down, but in the meantime, some of the world’s biggest companies are taking it very seriously.

Google—which internally reoriented itself around AI years ago—is at the forefront of this movement, so the recent letter published by Google CEO Sundar Pichai is consequential.

After all, billions of people use Google Search to learn about the world, and Alphabet is one of the world’s most valuable, powerful tech companies. But before we “read between the lines” of the letter, it’s worth revisiting the larger context that this letter addresses.

OpenAI Has Entered The Chat

Artificial intelligence has been chalking up a number of wins in recent months, but it was DALL-E Mini and ChatGPT that really allowed generative AI to burst into the public consciousness. In fact, ChatGPT became so popular in a short amount of time, that Google declared an internal “code red” to address the issue. Leaders at Google were well aware of the disruptive power of conversational AI because they were already testing their own models internally.

Microsoft recognized the potential as well, and invested $10 billion in OpenAI, which runs ChatGPT as well as a number of other publicly-accessible AI tools. Microsoft’s intention was to bring the magic of ChatGPT over to their Bing search engine—and perhaps steal market share away from Google.

This sets the stage for what we’re seeing today. Essentially every big tech firm is singing AI’s praises, and Microsoft and Google appear to be entering into an AI race.

The AI Race is Heating Up

If there were any questions about how seriously Google was taking Microsoft’s new partnership with OpenAI, recent messaging should remove all doubt. The letter above, by Sundar Pichai speaks volumes while never straying far from official talking points. First, here is the high-level messaging in Pichai’s letter:

  • Google has already been in the AI game for years now
  • Bard is going to make Google search more ChatGPT-like
  • Google is only late to the party because they’ve been careful

On this last point: a message from the CEO, which reaffirms the company’s commitment to AI would normally coincide with a product launch, not one that will be released to the public “in the coming weeks”. This messaging highlights a key barrier that Google is facing. Fearing the “reputational damage” that could come from rolling products out prematurely, the company has been forced to move slower than the market now expects.

Google has already endured a painful misstep after reporters discovered an incorrect answer in a promotional video touting the conversational AI service, Bard. This simple mistake cost Alphabet $100 billion in market value—demonstrating how high the stakes are now that Big Tech’s AI progress is under the microscope.

The timing of this letter is also very telling. The letter was published the day before Bing rolled out new AI-enabled features to the public.

Let the jockeying for position begin.

Nobody Wants to be Left Behind

Google and Microsoft may be the biggest players battling it out in the AI space, but there are indicators all over that AI represents a massive technological shift that will impact a number of industries. From Fiverr’s “Open Letter to AI” to Baidu’s recent AI chatbot announcement, it seems that every day brings fresh news that fuels AI hype.

One thing’s for sure: AI will be integrated into digital tools in more noticeable ways. And for better or worse, we’ll all be participating the experiment.

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Can Data Centers Be Sources of Sustainable Heat?

Data centers produce a staggering amount of heat, but what if instead of treating it as waste, we could harness it instead?

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Diagram showing how waste heat from data centers could be recaptured and recycled to provide sustainable heat in residential and commercial settings.

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The following content is sponsored by HIVE Digital

Can Data Centers Be Sources of Sustainable Heat?

Data centers support the modern technologies on which we rely, but also generate incredible amounts of heat as waste. 

And since computers tend to be very sensitive to heat, operators go to great lengths (and expense) to get rid of it, even relocating to countries with lower year-round average temperatures. But what if instead of letting all that heat disappear into thin air, we could harness it instead?

In this visualization, we’ve teamed up with HIVE Digital to see how data centers are evolving to recapture and recycle that energy.

How Much Heat Does a Data Center Produce?

To get an idea how much heat we’re talking about, let’s imagine a mid-sized cryptocurrency operation with 1,000 of the most energy-efficient mining rigs on the market today, the Antminer S21 Hydro. One of these rigs needs 5,360 watts of power, which over a year adds up to 47 MWh.

Multiply that by 1,000 and you end up with over 160 billion BTU, which is enough energy to heat over 4,600 U.S. homes for a year, or if it happens to be Oscar season, enough heat to pop 463,803 metric tons of popcorn. Less if you want melted butter on it. 

How Waste Heat Recycling Works?

At a high level, waste heat is recaptured and transferred via heat exchangers to district heating networks, for example, where it can be used to provide sustainable heat. Cool air is then returned to the data center and the cycle begins again.

Liquid cooling is by far the most efficient means of recapturing and transporting heat, since water can hold roughly four times as much heat as air.

Data centers around the world are already recycling their waste heat to farm trout in Norway, heat research facilities in the U.S., and to heat swimming pools in France.

A Greener Future for Data Centers?

Waste heat recycling has so far been voluntary, led by operators looking to put their operations on a more sustainable footing, but new regulations could change that. 

Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer in the Netherlands require all new data centers to explore recycling their waste heat. In Norway, they require it for all new data centers above 2 MW, while Denmark has taken a carrot approach, and developed tax cuts and financial incentives. And in late 2023, the EU Energy Efficiency Directive came into force, which will require data centers to recycle waste heat, or show that recovery is technically or economically infeasible. 

With Europe leading the way, could North America be very far behind?

HIVE Digital Provides Sustainable Heat

HIVE Digital is already recycling waste heat from its data center operations in Canada and Sweden. 

Their 30 MW data center in Lachute, Québec, is heating a 200,000 sq. ft. factory, while their 32 MW data center in Boden, Sweden, is heating a 90,000 sq. ft. greenhouse, helping to provide sustainably grown local produce, just one degree short of the Arctic Circle.

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Learn how HIVE Digital is helping to meet the demands of emerging technologies like AI, sustainably.

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